CHAMPCAR/CART: Mid-Ohio: Friday qualifying report

Paul Tracy rebounds from Road America trouble to snare first-day pole at Champ Car Grand Prix of Mid-Ohio LEXINGTON, Ohio (August 8, 2003) - Paul Tracy ( ...

Paul Tracy rebounds from Road America trouble to snare first-day pole at Champ Car Grand Prix of Mid-Ohio

LEXINGTON, Ohio (August 8, 2003) - Paul Tracy (#3 Player's/Indeck Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) had one of his worst days of the 2003 Bridgestone Presents The Champ Car World Series Powered by Ford season last Sunday at Road America when he failed to finish and saw the points lead that he had worked so hard to build, snatched away by race winner Bruno Junqueira (#1 PacifiCare Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone.

On his first day back behind the wheel of his blue-and-white Player's/Forsythe ride since that day, Tracy immediately went to work on erasing that memory as he stormed to the top of the speed sheets on the first day of qualifying for the Champ Car Grand Prix of Mid-Ohio. Tracy negotiated the 2.258-mile Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course in a time of 1:07.204 (120.957 mph) to lead the way, guaranteeing himself a front row starting spot for the ninth time in the year's 13 races, and also scoring a championship point that brings him to within two points of the series lead.

"This has not particularly been a great track for me in my career," Tracy said of Mid-Ohio. "I've never won here before. But I've always finished pretty well. I finished on the podium many times. So we knew that we needed to respond back. You know, Bruno hit the ball back towards us, now we have to hit it back towards him."

Tracy went out in the early part of the session and ran a lap of 1:08, then took the next lap to create some space for what would eventually be the polewinning effort. The second half of the session saw nearly every driver taking their best shots at Tracy's time, but traffic and a late red flag ended the session as many drivers were prepping for their final flying laps.

Tracy led an all-Canadian podium on the first day of qualifying as Rocketsports Racing's Alex Tagliani (#33 Johnson Controls Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) took the second spot with a time of 1:07.477 (120.468 mph). Tagliani, who has finished in the top 10 in each of his three previous Mid-Ohio CART Champ Car starts, was able to find some space late in the session to put up his lap and snare the second position on the Friday grid.

Defending race winner Patrick Carpentier (#32 Player's/Indeck Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) had the most eventful day of any of the qualifiers, surviving a penalty to take the third spot as he looks to become the seventh driver to repeat as Mid-Ohio winner. Carpentier had the third best time of the day with a lap of 1:07.611 (120.229 mph), but had a lap of 1:07.580 (120.284 mph) taken away from him when CART Champ Car stewards penalized him for blocking late in the session. Carpentier also had an incident of brief contact with Max Papis (#27 PK Racing Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) but both drivers were able to continue the session.

"Well, because I had to get a gap, that was actually the only lap that I had," Carpentier said of his contact with Papis. "That's when I actually did my time. It was either that or no good time. So that's what I did. I mean, you let some of the guys by, and Max is one of the guys that you know if you let him by, you're never going to get by him again, so I had to go."

Carpentier's block was ruled to happen against the car of Jimmy Vasser (#12 American Spirit Ford-Cosworth/Reynard/Bridgestone), who would spin on his next lap in the Carousel Turn and bring out the red flag. The scarlet banner ended the qualifying session with 90 seconds to run as the stewards waved the checkered flag in conjunction with the red. The spinout and resulting penalty dropped Vasser from 10th to 14th in the first-day results.

Herdez Competition's Mario Dominguez (#55 Herdez Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) continued on his qualifying roll after he started fifth last weekend in Road America, taking the fourth spot on Friday with a top lap of 1:07.652 (120.156 mph). His lap put him ahead of Michel Jourdain Jr. (#9 Gigante Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) of locally-based Team Rahal, who would round out the top five with a lap of 1:07.696 (120.078 mph).

Sebastien Bourdais (#2 Lilly Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) led the rookie contingent on the day, placing in the sixth spot with an effort of 1:07.699 (120.073 mph), putting him one slot ahead of Oriol Servia (#20 Visteon Patrick Racing Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone). Servia claimed the seventh spot with an orbit of 1:07.804 (119.892 mph), a run that was a scant .003 seconds quicker than that of Roberto Moreno (#4 Herdez Competition Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone).

A pair of rookies in Reynards rounded out the top 10 as Ryan Hunter-Reay (#31 American Spirit Ford-Cosworth/Reynard/Bridgestone) and morning practice leader Darren Manning (#15 RAC/Walker Racing Ford-Cosworth/Reynard/Bridgestone) took the ninth and 10th positions respectively on the grid. One week after assuming the points lead after a 23-point performance at Elkhart Lake, Bruno Junqueira went out early in the session to avoid any traffic problems, but it would be to no avail as he qualified 11th in the first day of qualifying.

Junqueira and the rest of the field will get another chance to climb the ladder Saturday as final qualifying takes place at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course. A morning practice session begins at 10 a.m. with final qualifying for the Champ Car Grand Prix of Mid-Ohio starting at 1:45 p.m. The session can be seen on a same-day tape-delay basis on SPEED Channel beginning at 4 p.m. Eastern Time.


Paul Tracy:

"There's always pressure. But for me, you know, we just need to respond to that pressure. I would say there's probably no more pressure throughout the season than running in Toronto or Vancouver or Montreal for me and for our team. So, you know, we were able to withstand that and thrive off of it."

Alex Tagliani:

"The car was all right on new tires, and we did an okay lap on the first set. And I think we got lucky on the second set. I didn't get any traffic. I did it early. A lot of the quick guys didn't have the chance to improve their lap. So we still have a little bit of issues on our car that we have to work on."

Patrick Carpentier:

"I think we waited quite a long time, waited till the end to come out. PT did his time fairly early on. Even at the end, I don't think he couldn't get a clear lap either. It's always a question of how much rubber there is, and what time you go out."

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Darren Manning , Jimmy Vasser , Bruno Junqueira , Max Papis , Roberto Moreno , Patrick Carpentier , Alex Tagliani , Paul Tracy , Oriol Servia , Mario Dominguez , Ryan Hunter-Reay , Sébastien Bourdais